NNTRC Snakes

Scientific Name

Naja melanoleuca

Common Name 

Forest Cobra


Physical Characteristics

Length, 59-79 in. (150-200 cm). Occasionally they can reach lengths of up to 300 cm.  The highly glossy dorsal area can vary from brown, brownish grey to black.  While most individuals are uniformly black or brown some specimens may have a vague pattern of lighter scales and lines across the back which give the appearance of narrow cross-bands.  The ventral area is yellowish or white with several wide dark bands.  The head is black or yellowish brown with distinct light cream labial scales with dark edges.

Geographic Range (Africa)

Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Savannah, grasslands, costal areas, and forest habitats from sea level to 2500 meters.


Small mammals, birds, frogs, and snakes.    


Contains neurotoxic components resulting in respiratory distress.


Forest cobras are big and extremely fast snakes that can move quick on land in the water and in the trees.  They are able to rise up almost two-thirds of their body length and will stand their ground and attack when cornered.  Due to its neurotoxic venom, size and disposition, this snake it is considered extremely dangerous.

This page was last updated on: January 20, 2017